Jamaican Caving News
ARCHIVES - VOLUME 4
The next session of the JCO begins tomorrow, March 20. We will be out of touch via email until Apr 4, and there will be no updates of the site until then.
Many thanks to Alan G. Fincham for recently sending us some info on Golding River Cave. Dr. Fincham is the author of the incredibly valuable book, Jamaica Underground, and we continue to benefit from his extensive knowledge of the caves of Jamaica.
We'd like to thank The Nature Conservancy for getting our pay to us, for the Parks in Peril Project, on Mar 17. When the cheque clears, we will be able to add to our depleted coffers and be on a better footing to continue our speleo investigations in Jamaica.
A reconnaisance visit to Smokey Hole Cave, one of our targets for the March expedition, was carried out on Sunday, Feb 19, by Ivor Conolley, Adam Hyde, Elizabeth Slack, Rona Stirling, Barbara Gottgen, Ann Silvera, Wayne Francis, and Roger Hendricks. It was confirmed that the undescended shaft that will be tackled on March 25 is indeed very deep. There will be much more on this after we have knocked it off (or died in the attempt), but for now we're going to limit publicly available information lest pirates arrive in an attempt to scoop us on it. This is unlikely in the extreme, of course, but we're taking no chances... it's that big.
Further in regard to Smokey Hole, and in fact every hole in Jamaica, we will quote a limerick created by Ivor Conolley:
There once was a man always raving
For the greatest sinkhole while caving
He descended the shaft
They last heard when he laughed
'It's the bottomless pit I was craving'
Notes for another fifteen of the caves visited during the Parks in Peril Project in 2005 are now online via the May 2005 page. There are about five more to go (probably tomorrow) and then we'll start posting the Sep/Oct 2005 notes. The plan is to have everything caught up by the time of the next expedition. A little more info can be found on the xml feed.
Ivor Conolley and Elizabeth Slack, of the JCO, carried out an assessment of Roaring River Cave, Westmoreland, at the request of the managers of the site, TPDco, Thursday, Jan 26/06. This cave has been used as a tourist show-cave for many years and has been altered greatly from its original state. Notes for the outing and a report to TPDco and NEPA that recommends methods to minimize disruption to resident fauna, while still allowing tourists activities to continue, can be found here.
Regular visitors to the website might have noticed the recent addition of sponsorship links to several pages. The JCO, which is constantly in need of funding, has posted these links in return for a very helpful donation from the group involved and intends to leave them in place for the next twelve months.
Members of our organisation will be assisting others in two separate projects over the coming months. Andrea Donaldson, NEPA, is in search of the bat P. aphylla in the caves of the Cockpit Country, and multiple visits will be made to a chosen subset of the known bat-caves. Also, Kimberly John and Minke Newman have a water quality project underway that will include certain Cockpit Country caves, and the JCO has been asked to help by supplying a field assistant. We'll post more news on this as things progress.
The March Expedition
Planning is well underway for the next major JCO expedition, Mar 20 to Apr 4, 2006. The usual suspects will be onboard, including Guy van Rentergem, Adam Hyde, Ivor Conolley, Elizabeth Slack, and Stefan Stewart. We expect to have a few new members joining us for some of the targets, in particular, Wayne Francis and Roger Hendricks, of Manchester (welcome aboard).
The top priority will be completing the exploration of St Clair Cave, in St Catherine. Guy will lead the team in a push past the "Inferno" to reach new ground, and perhaps find a third entrance/exit for this enormous system. To quote Guy's description of St Clair Cave after our visit in January, 2005:
St Clair is about bats, bats and bats. Oh and cockroaches... It's difficult to explain what it is like, but if you have been to the movie "Batman Begins" then you will have the picture. I've never seen so much life in one place (ok maybe an ants nest, but I'm speaking about mammals). It's really like a kind of underground Serengeti. It is more than impressive. The environment is rather hostile and very demanding to equipment and people. Let's give an impression. The cave is smack in the middle of a jungle in very rough terrain. You have to carry everything on your back. There are so many bats you have a natural phenomena they call thermoclines. Walls of heat. From one step to an other the temperature rises 2-3 degrees. This goes in different steps from 25 degrees C till 33 and higher. Humidity 100%. Oh and you have to go through chin deep water for hundreds of meters. There are also passages you have to slide through on your belly like a snake. And take in account that all these animals have to poo and you can see that the ground is covered with an immense carpet of bat guano (bat ****). Ah, and some Old Bat lore: Never fly with a full bladder. So when they start to fly at evening it starts raining... And for the not faint of heart, the floor is covered with a living carpet of cockroaches...
Thanks to Rowan Reid, and his recent report on Smokey Hole Cave, Manchester, we have a very interesting addition to the target list for March. This cave has never been entirely explored, and the "Jamaica Underground" entry for the only exploration visit, by the Geological Survey Dept in 1961, merely notes, "A cave passage reported to end at a deep shaft (undescended)". It should be noted that the entrance is apx 680m above sea level, so there's a lot of room for vertical development. We intend to descend into the shaft, and see what may be found.
Golding River Cave, which has defied us in two attempts to refind the entrances to the cave, is also high on the to-do list. In Sept 2005, Adam Hyde, Barbara Gottgens, and Stefan Stewart could hear the water roaring through the cave in several places, but were not able to find a way through close-set boulders. We don't know if entrance conditions have changed since the JCC visits of the 1970's, but this time we intend to find a way through the rocks, even if we need wrecking-bars and/or dynamite to do it.
The completion of Vaughansfield Cave is also high on the list, as is the exploration of one of our new sites from 2005, Tyre Stream Cave. Falling River Cave is another with priority. Volcano Hole, if time permits. (A day or two should be spent on the Heading/Pantrepant trail in aid of the transect.) Various other caves will be visited with the final list still to be decided. One thing for sure - we will be caving for at least 12 days, and we intend to put this time to good use.
GPS Beta Testers Wanted
The JCO is in need of beta testers for GPS vector maps that are currently under construction (we'd like to thank Alfred Maragh for recently joining the team). For those of you who are unfamiliar with GPS vector maps, we'll supply a few details below.
GPS receivers that are able to display maps can only accommodate a particular form of map that uses vectors (lines and points with attributes) rather than bitmap/raster images such as jpg's and tif's. The necessary vector maps are not currently available for Jamaica. As a result, up until now, the only way to use the digitized maps has been by using a laptop computer linked to a GPS receiver. This is difficult/impossible when in the bush searching for a cave. It is possible to use work-arounds, such as uploading data in the form of waypoints and trackfiles prior to expeditions, but this is less than ideal.
The JCO has an obvious need for GPS vector maps, and we are also contacted regularly by people who are not able to use our available raster maps. Accordingly, the Chair of the JCO, RS Stewart, has finally started the process of creating vector maps that can be directly loaded into Garmin GPS receivers. This involves creating new maps based on underlying 1:50k topo maps and is time-consuming in the extreme. Nevertheless, it shall be done.
The map for 1:50k metric topo sheet 3 (Falmouth to the Barbecue Bottom area of Trelawny) is available for testing. It is anticipated that the accuracy will be better than +/- 20m and will allow navigation with automobile-based receivers. Of course, this is uncertain until a few people drive around the roads of Trelawny to check it out, and this is why we need help. In return, we'll give a substantial discount on the all-island finished version (we intend to sell the final product for funding purposes, because we're all slowly going broke maintaining the JCO and our external funding is roughly the same as if we were cutting sugar-cane for the same number of hours).
If you are interested in field-testing the digital vector map for topo sheet 3, and are in possession of an appropriate Garmin GPS receiver, please contact Stefan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The last of the notes from the March 2005 expedition are now online. Those from Harties Cave-2 onward are based on our report to The Nature Conservancy (caves component of the Parks in Peril Project), and this will probably become the new template for posting of future notes on the website.
We've recently added an XML/RSS feed for the weather page (a beta to see how things go). We intend to soon establish a separate feed that will supply info on new pages added to the rest of the site - we regularly add/tweak pages, and we hope that the XML feed will serve as an easy way to notify our visitors of changes.
(We have to do some housework on the News page soon, to sort out recent items, but for now we'll just keep shoving things into this spot).
The report on the caves component of the Parks in Peril Project, Cockpit Country, was succesfully presented on Sept 23 at the offices of The Nature Conservancy in Kingston. Unfortunately, the laptop we were using didn't have drivers for the available computer projector, so we weren't able to dazzle them with pretty pictures and displays of the monster database that was delivered, but the verbal report that accompanied the presentation of the deliverables was described to us afterwards as "spell-binding". We'll take their word for it, and can at least note that almost everyone stayed awake for the entire thing. The lunch that followed was quite good and we especially enjoyed the salad (it beats hell out of non-stop chicken and rice).
A number of caves were visited during the expedition and the Principal Investigator for the St James Assessment Project, RS Stewart, would like to announce that after a year and a half of work the bloody thing is finally finished, all 80-odd caves of it (haven't counted them up yet). This work was carried out with the great assistance of IC Conolley, DK Roggy, E Slack, M Bellinger, G van Rentergem, S McCall, M Loftin, and many others who will be acknowledged in the notes for the individual caves.
RS Stewart and E Slack are pleased to report the discovery of three new Taino caves, complete with potsherds, in the parish of St James. Several items that were collected have been forwarded to Dr Allsworth-Jones at UWI, via IC Conolley of the JCO. Positional data and notes will soon follow.
The Jamaican Caves Organisation will soon be in the field again. From Sept 20 to Oct 8, we will be visiting caves in various parishes across the island, including St James, St Elizabeth, Trelawny, and Clarendon.
The Nature Conservancy report on the caves component of the Parks in Peril Cockpit Country Project has been completed and will be presented in Kingston on Sept 22. Excerpts for the Introduction and Conclusions and the Caves of Rock Spring have been posted on the website, but be advised that the pages have been generated with MSWord due to lack of time, and will probably not centre properly on monitors over 600 x 800 pixels. The proof-reading also leaves much to be desired.
In addition to the caving, prep work for the Transect Project will take place, and we hope that the weather cooperates.
We will not be able to answer emails from Sept 18 to Oct 9. During that period, in the event of emergencies (such as cave rescue and/or body recovery), we can be contacted at 876 414 2489.
Two valuable members of the crew have recently left Jamaica. Mark Bellinger, and Dietrich Roggy, of the US Peace Corps, are moving on to other shores. Their help over the last two years will be sorely missed. Mark was one of our vertical stars, always making the best time on ascent out of deep pits. Dietrich not only found new caves, but created video docs of our outings, and was usually out front with a machete as we searched the bush for cave entrances. We hope that we have not seen the last of them, and have set aside helmets with their names on them.
Members of the Jamaican Caves Organisation, as many of you know, have spent a total of seven weeks in the field so far in 2005, (17 days in January, 14 days in March-April, and 19 days in May), with 46 of the days seeing us underground at some point. We are truly glad that the most energetic earthquake to hit the island in some years, (Jun 13, 03:58 UTC, mag 5.1), chose to not happen on one of those 46 days, it having always been our theory that break-down processes in Jamaican caves are assisted by tremors and earthquakes. Give thanks and praise that nothing broke down while we were under it.
Progress is being made on the material collected during the last two sessions, carried out in association with The Nature Conservancy. The latest news is that we now know that two of the shrimp species found are rather notable. The first, from Hope River Glade Caves, between Flagstaff and Springvale, is the first recorded occurrence of the species Atya lanipes in Jamaica. This small shrimp is a troglophile known from Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean islands, but has never been found in Ja before. The second, found at Flood Exit Cave, near Windsor, is tentatively identified as Troglocubanus jamaicensis, but could perhaps be a new species of Troglocubanus, with positive identification requiring the collection of material in the type locality at Lucky Hill, near Goshen. We'd like to thank Dr Christoph Schubart, University of Regensburg, for carrying out the DNA sequencing that made the identifications possible.
The fieldnotes template is online for the May session, found via the main notes page, and the notes themselves will soon follow.
An overview of the second session of the JCO involvement in the Parks in Peril Project will be posted on the Projects page in the next day or two. There was some catching up to be done on that page with other expeditions earlier in the year, prior to putting up the summary for May, and this is just about finished. There will be much more to follow on the PiP Project, once the final report has been presented to TNC.
Members of the JCO will be tackling the Diamond Holes, near Kingston, on the weekend of Jun 25-26. Ivor Conolley, Adam Hyde, Mark Bellinger, and others, will be exploring a deep pit or two. We'll supply more news on that soon.
A couple of video clips can now be found on the Photos page. These are short excerpts from a JCO video production done at Windsor Cave earlier this year. The format is .mpg and we suggest you use a right-click and save-as technique for downloading them, and then open them with the program of your choice, (Windows Media Player should do it, but download the files first to disc, and then play them from there). The two files are 22 MB, and 3 MB. Be forewarned that the footage has suffered in the process of making these clips small enough to be downloadable on dial-up connections. We will be making the full-length, high-resolution video, on DVD, available at a later date. It might, or might not, include the music currently used in the clips, (the Chair of the JCO has a thing about imagining hearing the Flight of the Valkyries when doing verticals).
The JCO and the Parks in Peril Project
The Jamaican Caves Organisation has recently completed another expedition. From May 3 to 22, further work was done on the caves component of the Parks in Peril Project, under the auspices of The Nature Conservancy - Jamaica. In all, forty caves were visited over the course of 18 days, and Jah only knows how many miles of bush were hiked through, with machete in hand, (at least 75 km). The JCO members who were engaged in this relentless pursuit of the caves of the Cockpit Country are thankful that our arms, legs, brains, and numerous tick bites can now receive some time to heal.
The principal members involved in the expedition were Stefan Stewart (Chair - JCO), and Ivor Conolley (Vice-chair - JCO), but valuable assistance was also supplied by Elizabeth Slack, Dietrich Roggy, Delroy Williams, Adam Hyde, Dr. Lee, Kimberly John, Marcella Phillips, Barbara Gottgens, Ann Silvera, and Melanie Silvera. We would like to express our great thanks to those listed above, and also to the people of Accompong Town, Aberdeen, Quick Step, Auchtembeddie, and Troy, for their suggestions and companionship.
This second session for TNC-J leaves the fieldwork essentially complete, with the total number of caves to be included in the finished Cockpit Country cave database now numbering over 70. However one considers it, it's a whole heap of holes, and we're justifiably proud of what we've managed to do in the five weeks that were spent in the field during the two JCO-PiP sessions.
Now, the desk-work begins, (entering data, transforming coordinates, identifying invertebrates, writing reports), and although this might seem to be a drudge, it is the most important part of the project. Our observations must be rendered in a form that can be easily accessed, sorted, filtered, and that is compatible with Geographical Information Systems (GIS). The conclusions derived by the filtering of the database must be presented in a manner that offers suggestions and guidelines for future monitoring and research. Summaries must be phrased in a way that recognizes the importance of community education in the preservation of the caves of the island. We are looking forward to the completion of this work, to not only satisfy our contractual agreement with TNC-J, and further the goals of environmental conservation in Jamaica, but to answer questions of our own. We are now in possession of a very comprehensive collection of data on the caves of the Cockpit Country, and this, when combined with the existing JCO database, will enable us to more firmly identify the existence of patterns in the degradation of caves, vis-a-vis terrestrial-troglobitic connectivity, that we have noted anecdotally in the past.
On Tue, May 10, an article appeared in the Jamaica Observer that discussed our association with the Parks in Peril Project.
On Wed, May 18, our descent into Minocal's Glory Hole was videoed by the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), and we will pass along news on the broadcast times as soon as we know what they are ourselves.
A summary of the expedition will soon appear on the website, and specific notes will continue to be posted as time permits. We can report in the interim the addition of several new Taino sites to the existing literature, as well as several new caves that were deemed worthy of investigation, most notably of those a fine stream-passage cave near Troy, and a deep shaft to a cave north of Quick Step.
We would again like to thank the National Environment and Planning Agency of Jamaica for allowing us to continue our activities, and The Nature Conservancy - Jamaica for supplying the funding that allowed this project to take place. Bless-up.
The JCO weather forecast will resume on May 25.
The JCO and the Parks in Peril Project
The Jamaican Caves Organisation will soon be in the field again, carrying out work on the caves component of the Parks in Peril Project, under contract to The Nature Conservancy. From May 3 to 22, members of our group will continue our systematic assessment of the caves located within the Cockpit Country ring-road. The primary target areas for this session are Accompong, Quick Step, Nassau Valley, Balaclava, Troy, Rock Spring, and Clarks Town. The most challenging of our targets will be Coffee River Cave, Golding River Cave, Falling Cave, and Minocal's Glory Hole. Along with those, there will be a whole heap of other caves that will be attended to.
Notes on the first JCO - TNC expedition have begun to appear on the March-April/2005 field-notes page. These notes are meant to put the database that will be the main product of the project into context, and allow an overview of our activities and adventures. They will also give a general indication of what we'll be doing in the field over the next three weeks.
Please excuse other parts of the website, such as our weather page, being somewhat ignored at the moment. Our available time is currently being consumed by expedition planning, and trying to compile the last expedition's data.
Please be advised that JCO email will not be answered from May 2 - 24. In the event of emergencies, (body removal and/or cave rescue), we can be contacted at 876-700-7128, or messages can be left at 876-788-1022.
The JCO would like to thank TNC-J for the funding that is allowing this work to take place, and also the National and Environmental Agency of Jamaica, (NEPA), for the permit that makes this, and our other projects, possible.
An overview of the schedule for the next JCO expedition follows:
JCO-PiP Schedule, May, 2005:
Wed, May 4: Accompong.
Caves: Robber Cave; Big Well Cave; Behind The Wall Cave.
Comments: We have good contacts in the district. It should be possible to cover all three caves in one long day.
Thu, May 5: Accompong.
Caves: Martel Spring Cave; Dunco Spring Cave; Saucy River Cave.
Comments: As above.
Night: Quick Step.
Fri, May 6: Nassau Valley.
Caves: Vauxhall Cave; Appleton Tower Maze; Nanny Cave.
Comments: We might not get all three done, in which case it will be finished the third week.
Night: Quick Step.
Sat, May 7: Quick Step.
Caves: Marta Tick, Bonafide, Stephensons.
Comments: No problem. We know these ones. It's a good hike into the bush, well north of Quick Step, but we need the exercise.
Night: Quick Step.
Sun, May 8: Quick Step.
Caves: Undernose, Gremlin.
Comments: These are new for us, but we have good info on where they should be found, (south a km from Marta Tick - out in the middle of nowhere, essentially).
Mon, May 9: Open. Probably Dr. Don McFarlane's two little palaeo shelter-caves in Windsor.
Tue, May 10: Alps.
Caves: Alps Cave, Alps Spring Cave, Burnt Hill Caves.
Comments: JU positions are very vague for all three of these small caves. On the drive from Windsor, en route to Rock Spring, we will see what can be found, (with the help of farmers and wicker-pullers).
Night: Rock Spring.
Wed, May 11: Rock Spring.
Caves: Far Enough Cave, Too Far Stream Cave, Iron Maiden Cave
Comments: We need to finish off Rock Spring.
Night: Rock Spring
Thu, May 12: Troy.
Caves: Wilson's Run Cave, Dalby's Stream Cave, Tyre Sump Cave
Comments: The last two of these are very small - the greatest challenge will be in finding them. We will no doubt come across new caves in the search, as this district has not had much speleo activity in the past.
Fri, May 13: Auchtembeddie.
Caves: Coffee River Cave, Golding River Cave
Comments: The most challenging of the caves we will visit this expedition. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather. If you have a copy of Jamaica Underground, please read up. There are over 4 km's of mapped passages between the two of them. There is a flood risk in sections. We will approach these caves carefully, but should be able to manage to get the necessary work done.
Sat, May 14: Clarks Town.
Crew: Open to all JCO members. This will serve as the monthly outing of the JCO.
Caves: Montieth Cave, Campbells Cave, Kinloss Shelter.
Comments: Montieth is listed in JU as having no info, just reported by the GSD, but Ivor has found the cave in the past, as part of his archaeo endeavours, and still has a good recollection of where it is. We're going to use this as a training session for new members on speleo work. A survey will be done, a bioinventory, and a thorough search for Taino evidence. We will probably split the team at some point and have a separate crew take care of Campbells and Kinloss, both very small caves not far away, and close to the road.
Sun, May 15: Windsor.
Crew: Open to all JCO members. This will serve as part of the monthly outing of the JCO.
Caves: Home Away Cave, Spring Cave/Pantrepant Cave
Comments: Spring Cave and Pantrepant Cave are listed as possible duplicates in JU, (reported small shelter caves but with Taino artefacts). We will sort this out by georeferencing what can be found, this done by asking the good folks at Pantrepant to assist us. This will take up the morning. In the afternoon, we'll make a trek up to Home Away, in the hills south of Pantrepant, to bioinventory, map, and look at some possible petroglyphs seen by JCO crew in the past. Home Away will only be for those who still have some energy left in their legs. It's a serious hike up the Escarpment, and there is no track other than remnants of ours. Once there, entry to the cave requires negotiating a pitch of about 15m, which isn't a problem if you have experience. If there are any new members who would like some training in vertical techniques, very much in the field, this is the opportunity.
Mon, May 16: Open
Tue, May 17: Nassau Valley.
Caves: Falling Cave, River Maiden Cave, Penthouse Cave
Comments: Falling Cave, along with Coffee and Golding, is one of the more dangerous caves that we will visit this session, due to the time of year, and the flood-risk. We'll hope for good weather.
Night: Quick Step
Wed, May 18: Quick Step.
Caves: Minocal's Glory Hole
Comments: A return visit for both speleo and exploration purposes. The one deep shaft that will be part of the PiP database. Unlike most of the others, it offers habitat for troglobitic critters in its lowest sections.
Night: Quick Step
Thu, May 19: Balaclava.
Caves: Wallingford River Cave, Mexico Cave, Wallingford Collapse Cave.
Comments: We've been in Wallingford River Cave, which is where the river sinks, but not the other end where it rises again at Mexico Cave. Looking forward to this.
Fri, May 20: South Cockpit Country.
Caves: Whatever's been missed in the South CC to date.
Night: Rock Spring
Sat, May 21: Barbecue Bottom.
Caves: Barbecue Bottom Hole-1.
Comments: We had a great visit to BBQ-2 last time, with Elizabeth and I getting down into the unexplored section, but we didn't have time for BBQ-1. We'll do it this day en route to Windsor from Rock Spring.
We're hopeful that things will go well, and that Jah will again guide our crew safely through the underground. With any luck, we should have good data, and interesting stories, to share with all of you in several weeks time.
The Bahia Principe Resort
A project currently planned for Runaway Bay, the Bahia Principe Resort, has raised concerns amongst a number of environmentalists and concerned citizens, in Jamaica and abroad, that a lack of foresight and diligence might result in the destruction of an important part of the island's wetlands. Wendy Lee, of the Northern Jamaica Conservation Association, has been instrumental in focusing attention on the possible harm that might result, and we are presenting some of the information made available by her to assist Jamaicans in general, and especially the local stakeholders, in arriving at a considered decision on this matter.
We first present an overview of concerns dating to 1993. It offers a brief summary of issues noted by the St. Ann Environment Protection Association.
Next is a Joint Submission to the National Environment and Planning Agency, (NEPA), that presents the views of a number of environmental organisations on the proposed Bahia Principe resort in Runaway Bay.
We present last a representative letter, one of many that have been forwarded to the NJCA regarding the matter, that can be found here.
We invite all interested parties to read the above material and take this information into consideration.
The JCO and the Parks in Peril Project
The Jamaican Caves Organisation has recently completed another expedition. From Mar 26 to April 9, members of our group carried out a systematic assessment and bioinventory of the caves of the Cockpit Country, under contract to The Nature Conservancy - Jamaica. The JCO is conducting the necessary work over the course of two expeditions, and by the end of it will have visited over 70 caves located within the Cockpit Country ring-road. This first session was focussed on the caves best done during the dry season: those that are hydrologically active. The priority was on the river caves of the Rock Spring district of Trelawny, Maroon Town, and several caves near Accompong Town. In addition to these, various dry caves that worked into the logistics of the schedule were also visited.
The team that was involved consisted of Ivor Conolley, Mark Bellinger, Dietrich Roggy, Elizabeth Slack, Mike Loftin, and Stefan Stewart.
A brief overview of the expedition follows.
Mar 27: Stewart, Conolley, and Bellinger linked with Leroy Grey of the Maroon Town Community Association, and received much-appreciated assistance in finding, and examining, the Barracks Caves. Although only one cave is listed, three were located and the two that best matched the received description were investigated. One is within 100m and the other within 400m of the listed position. A third cave was found that was noted, referenced, but not entered. Access is by an overhanging entrance pit about 10m deep and 10 wide. Due to the priority of covering the previously-listed caves in this project, and the fact that this cave in no way matches the listed cave, this one, like others, cannot be fit into the schedule, merely georeferenced, and noted. Judging by past experience, we can expect to come across new caves at a rate of 1-2 for every listed cave that we search for.
Mar 28: Stewart, Conolley, Bellinger. The Hope River Glade Caves, Flagstaff trail. Two unlisted caves were found on the hike in, upstream of the listed caves, in the great valley that leads from Flagstaff to Springvale. An interesting species of shrimp was found in the Hope River Glade Rising which we hope to soon have further information on thanks to Dr Schubart, at the University of Regensburg, in Germany. Late in the day, Vaughansfield Cave was re-visited, (in a particularly dry-season), bioinventoried, and pushed a great distance further than the previously reached 45 metre point. Mapping was done for about half of the explored passage, with a semi-permanent, (removable), station left at the far point of the survey. It should be noted that during our previous visit to this cave in May, 2003, the cave was sumped at about the 45m point.
Mar 29: Stewart, Conolley, Roggy, Slack. Printed Circuit Cave, (aka Rock Spring Cave), Burnt Hill / Albert Town district. Dietrich and Elizabeth joined us this day, and after arranging accommodation at Miss Jasmine Buckles, we began our investigation of Printed Circuit Cave. The main collector was entered and followed upstream to several of the smaller passages, to reach areas not entered by tourists, or people of the district. A healthy collection of stygobitic decapoda were found, and the resident troglobites were also noted. Identification of the various species is currently underway with the help of our collaborators.
Mar 30 - Apr 2: Over the course of the next four days: additional entrances for Printed Circuit Cave were located and georeferenced; assessment, bioinventory, and exploration took place in Mouth River Maze, Harties Cave 1, Harties Cave 2, Swanga Cave, Pool Cave, Crayfish Cave, Farmyard Cave, Carambie Cave, Cane Patch Sink, Good Hope Cave, Good Hope One Cave, Good Hope Two Cave, Far Enough Cave, and Too Far Stream Cave. This great amount of work was done by splitting the group of four into two teams for the first half of the day, Stewart/Roggy, Conolley/Slack, and then reuniting for the rest. Many hours were spent both underground, and above-ground searching for entrances in the bush, (with machetes in hand). We must thank the wonderful people of Rock Spring for letting us wander across your farms, for supplying valuable information, and for being good company. We must also apologize for the times we startled you by popping out of little holes in the ground with helmets and lights on our heads.
Apr 3: Stewart, Conolley, Roggy, Slack. Barbecue Bottom Holes. We departed Miss Buckles in the morning, and headed down the Barbecue Bottom road. This district, like so many others during the first week of the expedition, was plagued by bushfires. We were fortunate that the entrances to the two Barbecue Bottom Caves are high, close to a saddle, on the south side of the bottom land, because the lower sections were thick with smoke, with active fires sending plumes upwards through the general haze. Time constraints prevented us from entering both caves, it having taken some time to merely locate our targets, so we decided on the most promising of the two, Barbecue Bottom Hole-2. This cave is described in Jamaica Underground as having an unexplored 15m drop in it. The logistics of the visit were this: Dietrich stayed with the car, parked high above us on the road, because this rather isolated district has had occasional incidents in the past; of the three of who hiked into the bottom land, Ivor safe-guarded things at the top of the pitch at Hole-2; Elizabeth and Stefan descended into the new chambers, past the 15m drop. This was quite rewarding; a series of four pristine chambers were found, with the first containing a medium-sized bat roost, with fine fluffy guano, and all of the chambers were observed to be in a biologically undisturbed state. We moved carefully, and tried to cause the least amount of damage in this previously untrodden cave. An inventory of trog macroinvertebrates was done, and we ascended first the 15m pitch, and then the trail back up to the road. The night was spent in Windsor.
Apr 4: Stewart, Roggy, Loftin. A return visit to Windsor Great Cave was made, traveling through the system from north to south, with Flood Exit Cave done after our exit from the Bamboo Bottom entrance to WGC. Flood Exit was particularly interesting, showing a healthy collection of stygobites. Identification is underway at this time. Existing positional data was confirmed and remains unchanged.
Apr 5: Stewart, Conolley, Roggy, Slack. On this day we moved on to Accompong Town. Our time was primarily spent on the journey, and in prep work, (in the form of enquiries and info), for a couple of "lost" caves that were searched for en route, and then meeting with Colonel Sidney Peddie, the Head of State for Accompong, to obtain permission for our activities. We would like to thank the Colonel for allowing us access to the project targets located here, and we expect to follow up on things next session.
Apr 6: Stewart, Conolley, Roggy, Slack. Still Waters Cave, near to Accompong, was done first, and then two others, Wondrous Cave, and Adams Cave, near Elderslie. All three caves were of great interest, and have supplied valuable data. It should be especially noted that the entrance to Still Waters Cave was dry, and we had good access to the system. On our return journey to Windsor, at the end of the day, Springvale South was visited.
Apr 7: Stewart, Roggy, Slack. Long Mile Cave, and Ruined Ground Cave, both in Windsor district, were visited, georeferenced, and assessed.
Apr 8: Stewart, Conolley. Our intention was to visit several caves south of Clarks Town, but a broken CV-joint in the car had us instead stranded for much of the day on the road south of the town, near Campbells, while a local mechanic worked on getting us moving again. The targets that were not done this day will be attended to during one of the regular JCO outings that will occur between now and the next expedition. One thing that can be reported is that we had a lot of friendly company who received a little lesson in the geology of Jamaica thanks to a big chunk of flint/chert that was found, inexplicably, sitting on the side of the road where we broke down, far from the nearest area where chert would be expected to occur. Everyone took great pleasure in chipping various "hand-axes", and "blades", off of our great chunk of flint with a hammer, as we sat around under a hot midday sun, refreshed by donated jelly-coconuts. We're uncertain whether our new friends will all remember the discussion on where flint comes from, but they thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and at least one of the crew was invited to assist an attractive local woman in becoming a "baby-mother", an offer that was declined due to scheduling problems, but appreciated nonetheless.
The information recorded on the datasheets while in the field, during this last session, is now being entered into the database, the identification of observed species has begun, datum transforms are underway, and maps are under construction. Detailed notes for all of the caves will be posted on the website as soon as possible.
The next expedition, under contract to TNC-J, is expected to begin in late April, 2005. A brief interim report will be forwarded to TNC-J prior to then.
The Chair of the JCO, R. S. Stewart, would like to thank all of those who were involved during the last session, especially the many landowners who gave us permission to cross their land, and gave us guidance on where to find our targets. We must also thank NEPA for continuing to allow us to carry out our research. It is greatly appreciated and we hope that our investigations prove to be of value.
The JCO and the Parks in Peril Project
The Jamaican Caves Organisation will soon be in the field again. From Mar 26 to April 9, members of our group will carry out a systematic assessment and bioinventory of the caves of the Cockpit Country, under contract to The Nature Conservancy - Jamaica. The deliverables will be: a database of caves that supplies positional, biological, hydrological, geological, and palaeontological information; invertebrate lists of troglobitic and stygobitic species; Arcview project files that will enable the collected data to be used for GIS purposes; details on the approach to the entrances of the caves; photographs of the entrances; and personal trip reports.
The JCO will conduct the necessary work over the course of two expeditions, and by the end of it will have visited over 70 caves located within the Cockpit Country ring-road. This first session will focus on the caves best done during the dry season: those that are hydrologically active. The priority is on the river caves of the Rock Spring district of Trelawny, and several caves near Accompong Town. In addition to these, various dry caves that will work into the logistics of the schedule will also be visited.
The team that will be involved will consist of Ivor Conolley, Mark Bellinger, Dietrich Roggy, Elizabeth Slack, Mike Loftin, and Stefan Stewart. A full list of the planned targets for this first session will be found below. At first glance, it might seem impossible, but we have much experience in tackling multiple caves per day, and have planned things carefully to maximize our output.
Maroon Town/Springvale: Springvale South Cave, Rocky Road Cave, Young Gully Cave, Barracks Cave, Hope River Glade Caves, Vaughansfield Cave.
Kinloss/Campbells/Alps: Kinloss Shelter, Cole Fissure Cave, Campbells Cave, Montieth Cave, Alps Cave, Alps Spring Cave.
Rock Spring, (Albert Town): Cane Patch Sink, Farmyard Cave, Printed Circuit Cave, (aka Rock Spring Cave), Harties Caves 1 and 2, Pool Cave, Swanga Cave, Carambie Cave, Iron Maiden Cave, Crayfish Cave, Mouth Maze, Too Far Stream Cave, Good Hope 1 and 2, Far Enough Cave, Burnt Hill Caves.
Barbecue Bottom: Barbecue Bottom Holes 1 and 2.
Windsor: Home Away from Home Cave.
Elderslie: Wondrous Cave, Shell Cave, Adam's Cave.
Accompong Town: Still Waters Cave, Robber Cave, Big Well Cave.
There is no guarantee that we will complete the above list during this first session, but we're sure as hell going to try. We have many long days ahead of us, and are counting on dedication and experience to see us through. We are again hopeful that Jah will guide and protect us in our endeavours, and watch over our entire crew during the expedition.
JCO email will not answered from Mar 25 to April 10. If it's an emergency, (rescue/body-removal/whatever), contact us at 700-7128, or 788-1022.
Our involvement with the caves component of the Parks in Peril is back on track. The JCO has been registered as some sort of company, and now has a bank account. Past funding to our group has been to specific participants, and the recent, (greatly appreciated), funding from The Nature Conservancy, payable to the Jamaican Caves Organisation, has been a new situation, (handled poorly by the Chair of the JCO). Give thanks to Bill Palmer for telling us how to take care of things. We will be in the field, and underground, as of March 26.
The crew for the PiP project will be Ivor Conolley, Dietrich Roggy, Elizabeth Slack, Mark Bellinger, and Stefan Stewart. This sub-group of the JCO has been assigned the designation, the Interesting Times Gang. Apologies to the ITG for the uncertainties we had in scheduling, but things are now definite. Priority for the session will be southeast Cockpit Country, based in Albert Town, (we'll tackle the diciest river caves first, in case the rains come early).
In other JCO news:
The JCO outing to Jackson's Bay Cave on Sunday, March 6, was a great success. In all, fifteen people were onboard, and as Adam Hyde reports, "everybody went home sore and tired", which is exactly what you hope for after a good session of caving.
Jackson's Bay Cave is one of the more notable caves on the island; the morphology is fascinating, and it is an important Taino site. Specific archaeological observations were made by our JCO specialist in these matters, Ivor Conolley, during the visit, but these will be reserved for the time being.
The participating cavers were: Elizabeth Slack, Dietrich Roggy, Ivor Conolley, Heidi Savery, Ron Dalton, Adam Hyde, Barbara Gottgens, Rhian Holder, Maxine Hart, Chalay Smith, Ian Kelly, Hope Wint, Lyle Edwards, and Nicky Ramanand. The visit was led by Ivor Conolley and Adam Hyde. It should be noted that Adam has a great history with this cave, and was responsible for one of the more important discoveries of Amerindian pictograms to have been found in Jamaica to date.
The five person governing body of the JCO, the Council, has recently undergone some minor changes. The current Council consists of Stefan Stewart [Chair], Ivor Conolley [Vice-chair], Lilly Bolt [Secretary], Guy van Rentergem, and Adam Hyde. It is expected that this new team will help to ensure that the JCO continues to be effective in Jamaican speleological conservation efforts. By applying our wide-ranging knowledge of the current condition of, and threats to, the caves and karst of the island, we will be able to supply guidance, in a practical sense, that might assist in the preservation of the interior realms of Jamaica.
The St James Assessment Project
An interim report for the St James Cave Assessment Project, carried out by members of the JCO during 2004, has been recently submitted to the National Environment and Planning Agency of Jamaica, (NEPA). This systematic inventory of the caves of St James was based on work done by a number of collaborators, and carried out primarily by JCO volunteers. The Principal Investigator, R. S. Stewart, would like to thank the many people who contributed to the project, specifically: Dr. Susan E. Koenig; Dr. Donald McFarlane; Dr. Stewart Peck; Dr Philip Allsworth-Jones; Ivor Conolley, Martel Taylor, Guy van Rentergem, Rohan Ranger, Mark Bellinger, Sarah McCall, Dietrich Roggy, and Elizabeth Slack.
Although the roots of this research endeavour go back to 2001, it continues to be a work in progress. That said, we have every expectation that it will continue to improve in the future. We have been blessed with a steadily increasing number of collaborators, and specialist information is increasing accordingly. Through 2005, the permission granted by NEPA to collect certain cave-adapted inverts, combined with a better ability to determine species in the field, should serve to make the future version of the database more thorough with regard to biology. It is also expected that geological data will become more refined, again because of more effective collaboration.
The summary page for the 2004 report can be found here. The first paragraph will be found below. The associated database has been submitted to NEPA, and shared with collaborating parties, but will not be made publically available until final publication of the St James data, expected to be in the last half of 2005.
In 2004, members of the Jamaican Caves Organisation conducted a systematic assessment and inventory of the caves of the parish of St. James, Jamaica. Over 50 caves were visited, and good work was done. We are pleased to submit this interim report to the National Environmental and Planning Agency of Jamaica, and thereby supply a summary of the current status, and accomplishments, of this ongoing project.
Upon completion of the St James work, the assessment project will be extended to St Ann. Some data has already been obtained for the parish, but completion of this segment is not expected until late 2006. St Elizabeth will follow in 2007.
On behalf of the JCO, the Principal Investigator, Stefan Stewart, would like to thank NEPA for their continuing support of our efforts to preserve the caves of Jamaica. It is greatly appreciated, and we hope that the data we supply will be of real benefit to environmental conservation in Jamaica.
GIS Data from TNC
The JCO has recently received an abundance of Geographical Information System data from The Nature Conservancy. The files include layers for geology, hydrogeography, land-use, protected areas, preservation targets, and most importantly a Digital Elevation Model for Jamaica. A low-resolution section of the DEM, for the Blue Mountains, can be seen to the left.
For those who are not familiar with GIS, what it translates into is that we can now plot our GPS-derived cave positions not only onto the 1:50K topo maps, as we've been able to do in the past, but also place them on map layers that show local geology, or any of the other themes. The DEM allows plotting of positions upon a 3D map layer for Jamaica. The ability to do these things helps greatly in correlating data from various fields, and we can already see how the JCO can use this, after a quick look-through of layers. We're also confident that we can refine some of the received layers by inputting our own data, and look forward to sharing the new files with TNC, and other collaborating parties.
The JCO has to give a big thank you to TNC, and especially Steve Schill, for allowing us access to this data. What we have been given represents thousands of hours of work by those who were responsible, and we're very grateful. We'll do our best to directly apply this to speleo conservation efforts in Jamaica.
JCO Caving This Weekend
The Jamaican Caves Organisation will be in the field this weekend for a visit to Jackson's Bay Cave. The team is expected to have amongst its members: Ivor Conolley; Wigmore Francis; Mark Bellinger; Melissa Peterson; Elizabeth Slack; Rhian Holder; Gavern Tate; Adam Hyde; Ann Silvera; Barbara Gottgens; Dietrich Roggy; Karen Spence; and Steve Campbell. This outing will serve as an introduction to the underground for a few of our newer members, and we expect everyone to have an interesting time. A report on the session will be posted next week.
On other fronts: the TNC-J work has run into some minor scheduling problems and will be delayed until mid-March. Things are good to go, but the inevitable above-ground logistics are temporarily holding us back. More on the status of the project soon.
TNC-J and the JCO
The Jamaican Caves Organisation is pleased to announce that our proposal to carry out the cave component of The Nature Conservancy Parks in Peril Project has met with the approval of TNC-J, and that contractual arrangements have now been made.
Beginning in early March, 2005, members of the JCO will conduct a systematic assessment, and bioinventory, of all of the caves found within the Cockpit Country ring-road. Over the course of this project, more than seventy caves will be visited. It is expected that this work will supply baseline data on biological status, and current conditions of the target caves, and also note vulnerability to future damage. We intend to also supply recommendations for future monitoring activities to ensure that those caves which are currently pristine might remain so. Accurate georeferencing, for GIS purposes, will be done, and it is hoped that this will serve as an aid for the future location and study of the Cockpit Country caves, apart from our own activities. In short, we're about to launch ourselves off on a truly important project. A page dedicated to reports on our involvement with the TNC-J Cockpit Country Project has been posted on the website, (also linked above), so that we can communicate our progress more effectively.
The JCO would like to thank The Nature Conservancy - Jamaica, for the opportunity to be a part of the Parks in Peril Project. Our aim is true, and we will do our best in the months ahead.
The February 8 Meeting
The meeting of the JCO that took place on Feb 8, 2005, the first of our hoped-for monthly meetings, was well attended, and very productive. The great turn-out on Tuesday night bodes well for the future, and we'd like to thank everyone who made the journey to the Star Apple Restaurant, in Liguanea, Kingston district, for having found the time to link-up and participate in this notable get-together. You might not realize it now, but you have just been a part of what will prove to be an historical event in the annals of Jamaican caving.
The February 8 meeting was chaired by the Vice-chair of the JCO, Ivor Courtney Conolley, and the attending members were: Mark Bellinger, Adam Hyde, Elizabeth Slack, Dr. Philip Allsworth-Jones, Melissa Peterson, Rhian Holder, Gavern Tate, Roderick Wright, Ann Silvera, and Barbara Gottgens. Announcments were made by proxy for Dietrich Roggy, and Stefan Stewart. Notes/minutes were recorded by Rhian Holder, and they can be found here as a .doc file.
The Council of the JCO, Stefan Stewart, Ivor Conolley, Lilly Bolt, Guy van Rentergem, and Martel Taylor, would like to express our deep appreciation for the involvement of all those concerned in what is becoming an increasingly valuable, and very cool, organisation. Respect, and Jah guide.
JCO Monthly Meeting
The Jamaican Caves Organisation would like to announce that the first monthly meeting of the JCO will be held this Feb 8, in Kingston, Jamaica.
Until now, all of our "meetings" have been in caves, (while caving), after consultation via telephone and email. This will be the first session carried out above-ground expressly for the purposes of planning.
We have to thank our Kingston crew for arranging the details: Ivor Conolley was instrumental in this, along with Mark Bellinger and Adam Hyde. We're hopeful that this will only be the start, and that in the future these get-togethers will be held on a scheduled monthly basis.
The meeting is open to all interested parties, especially those who have contacted us in the past about linking with the group, but who have not wanted to actually go underground. Contact us via the link found in the upper right of the page if you have questions. Details follow:
Time: Tuesday, February 8, 2005, 6:00 pm.
Location: Star Apple Restaurant, (opposite Campion College on Hope Road), 94 Hope Road, (the road that links Half-Way-Tree to Papine), Liguanea.
Logistics: Parking is best at the corner of Richings Avenue and Old Hope Road. Come with at least $100 to buy a Red Stripe. (They charge $100 for a beer, and we're using their space).
Alan G. Fincham
Alan Fincham, author of the wonderful book, "Jamaica Underground", has recently launched an update page on his website. We expect that this will become a great resource for information on current caving activity in Jamaica, and suggest that all those who are interested in the Karst and Caves of the island, (few though we might be), visit, and bookmark, the site.
Cavers, whether in Jamaica or foreign, who are not already in possession of the book, Jamaica Underground, should seriously consider getting a copy. Our own crew, and all of our collaborators, consider it indispensable when planning is underway, and even if you have no intention of ever caving in Jamaica, you will enjoy it all the same.
JCO at the MBMP
Dietrich Roggy, of the JCO, will give a talk, and multimedia presentation, on the importance of cave preservation in Jamaica, particularly in a water quality context, on Feb 3, 2005, at the Montego Bay Marine Park. All interested parties are invited to attend.
Dietrich, and Mike Loftin, our JCO videographers, have been hard at work editing footage from the January, 2005 expedition, and some of the first results should be making their debut on Tuesday, at the MBMP. The entire crew wishes Dietrich good luck in this presentation, and we hope that it will serve to further our aim of educating the general public in the importance of preserving the caves, and hydrology, of Jamaica.
Volcano Hole - Round Two
On January 13, 2005, a Thursday, it was seven months to the day since we had last been in Volcano Hole. During that visit, June 13, 2004, we had been frustrated in our attempts to penetrate through breakdown boulders into the river, and had pencilled it in for a return visit some time in the future. Guy van Rentergem, who had not been with us during the June expedition, had indicated an interest in exploring and mapping this massively deep cave, so at the mid-point of the January, 2005 expedition, with Guy onboard, our crew returned to Grants Bailey, Norwood District, St Ann, to renew our quest for the river. This time, we were to be successful.
[Read the full story]
Minocal's Glory Hole - Quick Step
Minocal's Glory Hole is situated north of Quick Step, Trelawny, and is one of the deepest, known, not fully-descended shafts on the island. It has been on the JCO to-do list for many years and was visited briefly by our crew on Aug 23, 2003, to locate and GPS mark the entrance. On January 15, 2005, a year and a half later, we made a return visit with the intention of getting as far down into this pit as possible, and perhaps finding the bottom. By the end of the visit, we had indeed reached further than the only other attempt on Minocal's, by the NSS in 1985, but we had yet to complete the exploration of this intriguing sinkhole - we had only raised more questions.
[Read the full story]
The January 2005 Expedition
The JCO has recently completed another full caving session. The participating cavers, and scientists, were Philip Allsworth - Jones, Mark Bellinger, Keith Christenson, Ivor Conolley, Adam Hyde, John Keife, Mike Loftin, Joyce Lundberg, Donald Mcfarlane, Guy van Rentergem, Dietrich Roggy, Elizabeth Slack, and Stefan Stewart.
Over the course of 15 days, from Jan 4 to 19, bats were examined, bugs were peered at very, very closely, Taino caves were mapped, crabs contributed their DNA, and deep holes were descended. All in all, good work was done and we suffered no casualties.
The JCO would like to thank all of the people in all of the visited districts for the help they supplied to our team. In particular, we'd like to express our gratitude to the residents of Pollyground, Roehampton, Maroon Town, Quick Step, Stewart Town, and to Trudy Ann in Freeman's Hall.
Once the various members of the JCO have finished licking their wounds and catching up on lost sleep, we'll start passing along details on what has been a tremendously productive session. Most notably will be accounts of: an in-depth study of St Clair Cave; a return visit to Volcano Hole for mapping and exploration; the mapping of three Taino cave sites, including one which is a new discovery; a visit to a biologically pristine cave, (a rarity these days); and a descent into Minocal's Glory Hole that not only pushed into new ground, but resulted in observations that suggest the possibility of even greater things to come, (i.e. Sesarma verleyi and a breeze at -90 metres). In addition to the above, notes on visits to Roehampton School Cave, Bottom Pasture Cave 2, and Windsor Great Cave will be posted.
All of the participating members of the team are asked to start uploading images to the JCO folder, via ftp, as soon as is convenient. Separate arrangements will be made for video files, so please hold off on those for the time being.